10 best spot treatments that work quickly on breakouts and blemishes
Help eradicate skin blemishes and bumps with one of these effective treatments
Sometimes, despite doing all you can – a solid care routine, good diet and plenty of water – prevention fails and a monumental spot appears, often just in time for a wedding or a job interview.
On those occasions, you need a little extra help. We’ve been testing on-the-spot treatments formulated to reduce redness and irritation and to speed up the healing process.
Some can be very drying, so be careful to only apply to the affected area and follow the individual product instructions for how often they can be used.
Many treatments appear clear on the skin, but others can leave a pink-white residue, so we’ve noted which are best for overnight use and which are invisible enough to wear during the day or under make-up.
We found many of the treatments out there to be ineffective, so this roundup represents our best of the best. Here are our favourites.
Kate Somerville Eradikate acne treatment: £22, Cult Beauty
Along with CeraVe and Drunk Elephant, LA facialist Kate Somerville is one of the most exciting American skincare brands to arrive in the UK in the past year. Its spot formula is very similar to Mario Badescu’s (below) in colour, texture and ingredients (and the same application notes apply): the highest concentration of sulphur legal in skincare, plus camphor, zinc oxide and salicylic acid. We prefer it only because we find it more effective in preventing spots brewing under the surface from developing further.
Aesop control: £15, Liberty London
This little tube is packed with highly effective stuff: niacinamide, sodium ascorbyl phosphate and salicylic acid. In English: vitamin B3, which reduces the appearance of spots and congestion, a stable derivative of vitamin C that is great for fighting acne, and a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) that clarifies pores. Unlike other, coloured, chalky formulas, this is a clear gel so can be applied under make-up and at any time of day or night.
Mario Badescu drying lotion: £16, Beauty Bay
Mario Badescu’s drying lotion is probably the best-known spot treatment in the skincare world. It contains cooling camphor, exfoliating salicylic acid, acne-easing sulphur and zinc oxide and that calamine you might remember from your chickenpox days. Dip a cotton bud into the silt at the bottom of the bottle (don’t shake) and apply to spots. We’d recommend using this before bed, unless you plan on spending the day inside, as it leaves a white-pink residue as it dries – for significant reduction in redness and oiliness by morning.
Sarah Chapman skinesis spot SOS stickers: £24, Look Fantastic
A completely different approach, Sarah Chapman’s virtually invisible stickers come in a chic little leather pouch (perfect for your handbag) and are simply applied over the spot and changed when necessary. Salicylic acid declogs pores, p-Refinyl reduces the production of excess sebum, vitamin C evens the appearance of dark marks and essential oils soothe and prevent the drying effect of other formulas. We also found they significantly reduced the pain of a big spot and stopped us from picking.
Origins super spot remover: £15.50, John Lewis & Partners
Don’t be alarmed by the tiny size of this 10ml bottle – a little goes a long way. It contains salicylic acid and witch hazel for their pore-clearing and antibacterial properties, plus anti-inflammatory cucumber extract and soothing red algae to (confusingly) reduce redness. Its gel formula dries clear, making it more public-friendly than the traditional pink options, and we found hormonal spots around the jawline were almost entirely gone in two to three days rather than the usual week.
Tata Harper clarifying spot solution: £30, Cult Beauty
While sometimes you just want a product that deals quickly and effectively with breakouts, some of them can feel harsh and drying on skin. For those who want a gentler product to use more regularly, Tata Harper’s clarifying spot solution is a 100 per cent natural formula that uses copper, zinc, magnesium and essential oils to soothe and reduce redness. We found it works more slowly than others we tried, but feels kinder to the skin.
Murad rapid relief spot treatment: £20, Feel Unique
We’ve yet to find a Murad product that we don’t like, and this is no exception. Formulated with a hefty 2 per cent salicylic acid, plus oat extract to soothe, nourish and reduce redness, it significantly hastens the healing process. Plus, it dries to a clear, matte gel so you can wear it under make-up.
My Clarins clearout: £15, Clarins
My Clarins is the skincare giant’s newly launched under 30 range, which has younger, cooler packaging than the main range and also happens to be vegan and nearly 90 per cent natural. Its topical spot treatment uses meadowsweet, which contains clarifying salicylic acid, and soothing purslane to treat fresh breakouts gently and effectively. We found it worked best when applied as soon as you feel a spot brewing.
ZitSticka killa: £27, ZitSticka
The newly launched brand ZitSticka’s take on the acne patch is the best treatment we’ve tested for deep, cyst-like spots. The box contains eight cleaning swaps, which prep the area and help the sticker adhere, and eight patches with “microdarts” (sounds painful but we promise it’s not), which deliver hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid and niacinamide beneath the skin’s outer layer. At around £3.50 a use these aren’t cheap, so we recommend you save for serious emergencies.
Kiehl’s blue herbal spot treatment: £21.50, Kiehl’s
Combining salicylic acid with soothing and oil-absorbing ginger root and frankincense, which helps reduce sebum production, we found Kiehl’s blue herbal treatment brought brewing spots to the surface more quickly than if left to their own devices. It cleared up whiteheads in a couple of days.
The verdict: Spot treatments
If you don’t mind looking a little daft around the house, our vote goes to Kate Somerville for the fastest-acting relief and reduction in scarring.
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